Researchers have uncovered new evidence about alterations in neural activity that drive food cravings during pregnancy. The results of the study have been published in the journal “Nature Metabolism”.
“There are many myths and popular beliefs regarding these cravings, although the neural mechanisms that cause them are not widely known,” noted March Claret, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa. University of Barcelona and head of IDIBAPS neural control. from the Metabolism group. According to the results, during pregnancy, the brains of female mice undergo changes in the functional connections of brain reward circuits, as well as taste and sensory-motor centers. Moreover, just like pregnant women, female mice are more sensitive to sugary foods and develop binge eating behaviors towards high-calorie foods.
“Altering these structures made us explore the mesolimbic pathway, one of the signaling pathways of dopaminergic neurons. Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter in motivational behaviors,” noted Claret, a member of the Department of Medicine at UB and the Diabetes and Associated Center for Networked Biomedical Research in Metabolic Diseases (CIBERDEM). The team observed that levels of dopamine – and the activity of its receptor, D2R – increased in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain involved in the reward circuitry.
“This finding suggests that pregnancy induces a complete reorganization of mesolimbic neuronal circuits through D2R neurons,” Haddad-Tovolli noted. “These neuronal cells — and their alteration — are believed to be responsible for food cravings, since food anxiety, typical during pregnancy, disappeared after blocking their activity.” The team led by Claret and Haddad-Tovolli showed that persistent cravings have consequences for offspring. They affect metabolism and the development of neural circuits that regulate food intake, leading to weight gain, anxiety and eating disorders.
“These results are shocking because many studies focus on analyzing how lifelong habits of the mother – such as obesity, malnutrition or chronic stress – affect the baby’s health. However, this study indicates that short but recurrent behaviors, such as food cravings, are sufficient to increase the psychological and metabolic vulnerability of offspring,” Claret concluded. The findings of the study could contribute to improved nutritional recommendations for pregnant women in order to ensure good prenatal nutrition and prevent the development of diseases.(ANI)
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